PM’s outreach gesture boomerangs on himself

A press conference, intended to address media’s concerns over corruption and scams in the government, backfired after the opposition seized on statements made by the Prime Minister in the interaction.

Opposition, including both the left and the BJP, attacked the three defenses put up by the PM when asked about scams.

First, the PM Manmohan Singh said he had personally written to the then telecom minister A Raja to query him about allegations of scam.

“I wrote a letter to Raja on Nov 2, 2007. I listed a number of issues that you must look into and (ensure) they are dealt (with) in (an) equitable, fair and transparent manner,” the PM told the assembled editors of news channels.

He said Raja wrote back assuring him that every thing was fine and transparent. “He wrote back to me on the same day saying I had been absolutely transparent in dealings I will be so in the future and you have my assurance that I have done nothing and I will do nothing that will be consistent to the promise that I have made to you,” he said, adding that he needed to make certain compromises to save the government.

“I have had to go through many compulsions due to the nature of coalition politics. We cannot have elections every six months,” he said, an obvious reference to DMK’s numerical control over the Congress led government. ‚ÄúSome compromises had to be
made,” he added.

The comment was mocked by the opposition who wondered whether coalition politics was being used as an excuse for corruption. BJP chief Nitin Gadkari said the PM, as the head of the council of ministers, cannot absolve himself or his party of the responsibility for the corruption carried out by a member of the council, whether or not that person belonged to his party or not.

“Coalition does not mean ministry outsourcing… His remarks that the finance ministry had supported decisions taken regarding the 2G spectrum showed that everybody was involved,” he said. He also asked whether PM’s first excuse, that he had written to Raja, cut any ice with anyone. “Does your responsibility end when you have written a letter?” he asked in a press conference soon after the event.

PM’s third defence — that criticism of the 2G policy was coming from people who opposed subsidies on food and kerosene — was also mocked. Both the left parties and BJP attacked the PM for daring to compare welfare activities to corruption and manipulation of the telecom policy to suit Raja’s alleged friends in the corporate world.